In Her Shambles
'This is a radiantly-written and vigorous collection by a rising star of British poetry.’
– David Morley (winner of The Ted Hughes Award)
‘Hers is a dexterous poetry of confidently conjured atmospheres and moods, at once elusive and heady with lyric invention. She has a canny way with the repeated phrase and a technical control that's impressive yet lightly worn . Parker's debut is, without doubt, a fine thing to be both celebrated and admired.’
– Martin Malone, The Interpreter's House
In Her Shambles is Elizabeth Parker’s first full collection of poems. From the first poem ‘Crockery’, where a potential lover, in surrealist fashion, seems to fragment into reflections on a dinner table, we have a key to this author’s style: verb-rich, active, observational, things-seen-aslant. Poem two gives us more clues: the engaging metaphor of a father as a ‘rescuer’ is played out. Parker likes to regularly burst out of the one-page lyric, and often extends her metaphors over two or more pages. With more ground to cover, she can vary her physics from minute inspections to eagle-eyed overviews.
There is a visceral quality to the imagery: we are revealed and celebrated as creatures of the body: of flesh, blood, bone and ‘juices’. In the marvelous ‘Rivers’, family members are assigned their own distinctive bodies of water: “My sister’s brook is root beer with rot/ the dead giving up their tannins/ letting riches from their skins…”. There is a poem where two women on a bus examine and comment upon their aging hands and there is also a long poem, ‘Manus’ that is an intriguing and amusing investigation of the hand and its role in human history.
Heroines of various sorts often appear in these poems, most pointedly Lavinia from ‘Titus Andronicus’ (which might well rival ‘Macbeth’ as Shakespeare’s equivalent of a slasher-flick). Parker appropriates this outrageous tale and re-imagines it with an empowering twist: Lavinia will now not be stopped from pulling the stitches out of her tongue and trying to write using her own blood as ink. In ‘She Paints Him’ a man is subject to ‘the female gaze’ and he must take on the colours she picks. But these poems are less self-consciously political and feminist than they are carefully empathetic and human.
Likewise, in certain poems like ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Sand Cat’ there is a surrealist overlap between imagery from the natural world and the human/animal interactions. The result is an artful enactment of paradox and mystery. We must imagine ourselves with the intruder who breaks into a shed for shelter, as well as the mysterious cat whose reflections inhere in the landscape.
In Her Shambles is a notable debut from a talented young author.